By Gail Fitzer
The shocking failure of the media to report what was truly happening in this historic, unprecedented presidential election despite the enormity of what was at stake must finally be the wake-up call to turn journalism into a nonprofit institution free of the pressures of shrinking advertising dollars, bottom-line profits and the latest internet trends.
With the traditional media, especially newspapers which were once the bastion of investigative journalism, forced to constantly lay off journalists to barely stay afloat and under pressure to give an internet-induced ADD-plagued public more of the meaningless content it seems to crave, it’s no wonder there was such a colossal failure to dig, investigate and report what was actually happening on the ground in this election, especially in the battleground states.
The media just reported the information pollsters fed them, apparently never challenging the data, or digging any deeper into claims by the Trump campaign said they had secret, hidden support the polls weren’t picking up. Perhaps the liberal-leaning media was inclined to ignore the claims as delusions or pure fabrications from a candidate who lied habitually and incessantly about it seemed just about everything.
With newsrooms grossly understaffed and journalists under constant, unrelenting deadline pressure to keep up with breaking news stories emanating from the campaigns, social media, bloggers, Wikileaks, other media outlets, and a seemingly infinite number of online sources, it’s no wonder not one journalist seemed to have the time to dig any deeper into those Trump claims or the national polling data, or investigate the discrepancies between the two, and we were all shocked to our core by the results of Tuesday’s election.
While the pollsters clearly are to blame even more than the media (Of 67 national polls tracking a four-way race since the start of October, only four gave Trump the lead, according to RealClear Politics. Of 61 national polls tracking a two-way race during that period, only six gave Trump the lead), the media clearly dropped the ball as well.
It has historically been the job of the press to be the so-called fourth estate, providing critical checks and balances on our government. The pressure on an ever-dwindling number of journalists to also serve as photographers, videographers, social media posters on an ever increasing number of platforms up to and including Snapchat, self-marketers and promoters of their own content, web developers and graphic designers to create charts and graphics to accompany their stories leaves them no time to second guess polling data or sources, let alone to investigate, research and take the time to serve as the watchdog of politicians and government.
There has never been a more critical time to change the model of journalism and how the media is funded. There has never been a more critical time to rebuild the decimated staff of newspapers around the country, traditionally the epicenter of investigative journalism, and to create nonprofit media organizations dedicated to investigative journalism of a Trump presidency and a Republican monopoly over all three branches of government, especially once Trump starts replacing Supreme Court justices.
With television and digital journalism dedicated to quick soundbites, ratings, opinionated punditry and clickbait, an online audience that can’t be bothered to read or even watch a video for more than a few seconds, and a terrifying president-elect who has repeatedly demonstrated dictatorial tendencies and that he has no regard for the constitution, our democracy or the rule of law, it is time for foundations and the country’s citizens to seriously begin funding journalistic enterprises dedicated to investigative reporting and to truly serving as the fourth estate and the checks and balance on the most morally-challenged, unqualified and impulsive president in U.S. history and a Republican Congress that can not only send this country back to the dark ages but threaten the global economy and world peace and stability.
Gail Fitzer is a former journalist for Reuters, AP and The Hollywood Reporter. She currently serves as Founder and CEO of AWAKEN PR. For more information on donating to or becoming involved in the cause, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.